Wow! Simply, wow! Fritz Lang’s 1931 tale, of a German city besieged by an unknown child murdered, is an utterly compelling piece of cinema. I was totally mesmerised throughout.
It begins with a group of children playing outside, singing a gruesome ditty. The camera moves onto a mother, waiting her daughter’s return. A portentous image of the child’s empty place setting spells doom for the family, we know she’ll be the latest victim. We see the shadow of a man, cast across a poster warning of the ‘kinder murderer’, as he talks to a small child. Soon after the child’s ball rolls across some grass, and we know the worst has happened.
And so begins this intriguing story. We see the local law enforcers, desperate to catch the killer, raiding any and all venues where the known riff raff congregate. No surprises there, but in an unusual twist, the criminals themselves conspire to find the guilty party. Concerned their illegal businesses won’t be able to withstand the continued police scrutiny caused by the murders, they resolve to capture him.
I’d love to talk more about the story, but I won’t. I wouldn’t want to rob you of the opportunity to discover M for yourself. I will say that M feels extraordinarily modern both in its themes and social commentary. The scenes where paranoid members of the public mistake innocents for the murderer, and bay for their blood, are reminiscent of news stories we see here at alarmingly frequent intervals. Illiterate morons attack pediatricians because they don’t know the difference between a children’s doctor and a paedophile – this happens even today.
As for the climactic scene where the murderer must account for his actions…? Absolutely breathtaking.
In case you weren’t able to pick on my subtle intimations, I thought M was an absolutely genius film and every film fan should see it. In fact, I urge you to watch it. So much so that I’ve even included a link to the whole film on YouTube. I hope you like it.
In German with English subtitles.